Potential upsets and chances for revenge loom large in Week 7.
By Laura Fay
With a jam-packed weekend of tantalizing contests, it’s almost difficult to know where to look. The matches kick off with a rematch between Phoenix and Minnesota, who broke a five-game losing streak on Tuesday, before both the Storm and Aces try their hand at topping the Mystics. Elsewhere, the results of the Wings and Sparks have big implications for the standings come Monday.
Gaining Ground: Mercury vs. Lynx
Phoenix Mercury vs. Minnesota Lynx — Thursday, June 23rd, at 8 p.m. ET (Facebook)
Phoenix and Minnesota will kick off the Western division’s weekend haul, with a promising matchup between two rising teams. The Lynx pulled out a much-earned win on Tuesday, and are looking to emulate the burst of form that lifted the Mercury off the bottom of the standings two weeks ago. The Lynx were boosted by the return of Natalie Achonwa and enjoyed well-distributed scoring on Tuesday, with 32 points and 20 rebounds coming off the bench. They will be further encouraged by the return of Sylvia Fowles, who was cleared to return to action Thursday morning. Meanwhile, the Mercury will need Tina Charles to step up her production after scoring 25 points in two of their last three games.
The player to watch this game is Shey Peddy. With Sophie Cunningham still out injured, Peddy has been responsible for most of Phoenix’s bench scoring. She performed admirably on Tuesday, outsourcing three starters with 12 points. With the Lynx’s deep bench, Peddy is key in supplementing the starting lineup and her contributions will be important again on Thursday.
Maintaining Momentum: Fever vs. Wings
Indiana Fever vs. Dallas Wings — Thursday, June 23rd at 8 p.m ET (CBSSN)
The Fever and Wings matchup for the first time this season, with both teams looking to maintain momentum as the season approaches its halfway mark. Indiana will want to capitalize on their shock 89–87 defeat of defending champs Chicago. Rookie NaLyssa Smith was pivotal in that contest, recording a 26pt/11reb double-double to carry her team to victory. The Wings are looking for a win after being upset by the Dream on Tuesday, as they fight to hold their spot as third in the west. While Indiana and their 5–9 record may seem like easy pickings, their raw talent and potential warrants a second look.
The player to watch this game is Arike Ogunbowale. Ogunbowale has had a fantastic month. She’s scored over 20 points in four of her last six games and has been a reliable star for Dallas all season. The Wings will rely heavily on her to negate Smith’s scoring in this matchup, and her record suggests she’ll be up to the task.
In Playoff Contention: Mystics vs. Storm
Washington Mystics vs. Seattle Storm — Thursday, June 23rd at 10 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
After a successful 4–1 road trip, the Storm have returned home to host the Mystics on Thursday. While it would be hyperbolic to bill this as a must-win for the Storm, Seattle has consistently fallen short against top teams—most recently against the Sun over the weekend. A win over the Mystics, who beat Connecticut on Sunday, would certainly help silence some of their doubters. Elena Delle Donne reportedly will be available for the clash, meaning that this is the strongest Washington side the Storm could face.
The player to watch this game is Gabby Williams. A French national team player and reigning Euroleague Final Four MVP, Williams had been quiet this season—until Sunday, that is. Williams erupted for 23 points against the Liberty, showing an aggressive scoring drive that had previously been absent, and started finding her three-point shot—she hit 2–3 from beyond the arc after missing her first 13 attempts of the season. It will certainly be interesting to see whether she can maintain this level of performance and become the consistent scoring threat Seattle needs.
Out for Revenge: Sky vs. Sparks
Chicago Sky vs. Los Angeles Sparks — Thursday, June 23rd at 10:30 p.m ET (Facebook)
The Sky will be out to prove themselves on Thursday, with a tantalizing second matchup against the team that beat them in the season opener. Chicago will be riding high after an incredible 28 point comeback against the Aces, while the Sparks will be looking to maintain momentum after notching a win over the Mystics on Tuesday. While the 2022 Sparks have been plagued by inconsistency, their deep roster means they can never be counted out in tough contests.
The player to watch this game is Jordin Canada. The Sparks’ new pickup this offseason, Canada has taken the reins as LA’s starting point guard after playing second fiddle in Seattle. She was great in the Sparks’ opening day win, contributing 21 points and 8 assists, but has been quiet since. The Sparks desperately need a consistent co-star for Nneka Ogwumike and Canada is certainly in contention if she can match her earlier output.
Rematch: Mercury vs. Wings
Phoenix Mercury vs. Dallas Wings — Saturday, June 25th at 8 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Phoenix will be fired up on Saturday, looking to avenge last week’s 5-point loss to Dallas in a match that could seal a regular season series win for the Wings. Phoenix didn’t necessarily play poorly in that game, but a stunning performance from Teaira McCowan off the bench got the Wings over the line. The Mercury don’t have that level of bench depth with Sophie Cunningham out injured, and will likely rely on their big three to contribute heavily. Diana Taurasi, held to 9 points in their last matchup, will be key.
The player to watch this game is Tina Charles. Charles, Phoenix’s most prominent offseason acquisition, started the season quietly but has since found tremendous form. She’s averaging 16.7 ppg, including over 25 points in 2 of her last 3 games. She nearly had a double-double when these teams last met (27pts/9reb) and the Mercury will rely on that kind of production to get them the win on Sunday.
Searching for Momentum: Sparks vs. Storm
Los Angeles Sparks vs. Seattle Storm — Saturday, June 25th at 9 p.m. ET (Facebook)
The Storm will look to capitalize on a stretch of home games, while the Sparks need to maintain momentum when the two teams meet on Saturday. Los Angeles got their first win under interim head coach Fred Williams this week, and will want to capitalize on that victory to drive their season. They have two games in hand on the Wings and could match their record with two wins this weekend. The Storm will be a tough opponent, but LA has all the necessary pieces if they start clicking.
The player to watch this game is Liz Cambage. Cambage, a new addition to the Sparks this season, has tremendous potential that she has so far failed to capitalize on in LA. She scored double-digits in the first 11 games of the season but her production has dipped over the last fortnight. At 6’9”, Cambage has the ability to out rebound opponents and push her way through defenders. If she can regain form, it can only be a good sign for the Sparks.
Top Tier: Mystics vs. Aces
Washington Mystics vs. Las Vegas Aces — Saturday, June 25th at 10 p.m ET (NBA TV)
It’s a tantalizing match-up in Vegas on Saturday, with the Aces looking for revenge against one of only three teams to beat them this season. Washington was even undermanned in that matchup, missing Alysha Clark and Natasha Cloud, who have since both returned and played well. The Mystics were able to keep Vegas to just 25% shooting in the second half, applying consistent pressure on their starters and forcing them into bad shots. This drop-off has proved to be a weakness of the Aces, after a 41-point first quarter against Chicago earlier this week failed to carry them over the line. With the Aces lacking bench depth, it should be interesting to see if their starters can work out their play or if Washington truly has their number.
The player to watch this game is Kelsey Plum. While Plum has been putting up MVP level numbers, she was one of the players most affected by the Mystics’ defensive pressure in their last game. She scored just 4 points in the second half. The Aces will need more from their star, especially with Jackie Young finding form after returning from injury. Plum has stepped up many times before, and we wouldn’t bet against her to do it again.
Onwards and Upwards: Lynx vs. Sky
Minnesota Lynx vs. Chicago Sky — Sunday, June 26th at 6 p.m. ET (CBSSN)
The dispositions of both these teams will be much affected by other results: Minnesota has a tough two-game stretch against Phoenix, while Chicago travels to meet the Sparks. The margin was just four points when these teams last met, and the Sky has since regained Finals MVP Kahleah Copper while Minnesota welcomes back retiring legend Sylvia Fowles. You’d expect the defending champs to pull this one out, but the Lynx has been a thorn in the side of top teams all week.
The player to watch this week is Jessica Shepard. Shepard is coming off of a career performance last week, with 22 points and 19 rebounds in the Lynx’s 1-point loss against the Aces. This performance was some kind of a resurgence for Shepard, who was a consistent double-digit scorer early in the season but had since fallen off. Shepard will be eager to recapture that form, and if last week’s performance is any indication, she’s perfectly capable of doing so.